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Trail Fire Grill, High-Elevation Cooking the Campfire Way

I knew I liked the Trail Fire Grill when I saw creator Mark Ritchie demo it at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona, this past spring. He had made a bacon and eggs breakfast for me and showed me how this camping grill serves as a barbecue, wok, and oven.

I took the grill home expecting to make the usual campfire fare, but what I discovered was so much more. Mark offers sage advice when he says to use the grill at home before taking it to the backcountry for an overland experience. I started with bacon and eggs, and that night I had advanced to pork chops over cheese grits topped with red pepper jelly. Pretty amazing offerings for a front yard grill. But now to the real test.

The true test of outdoor baking

I am a Southerner, not by birth, but by being raised in Mississippi from the time I was a small child. Like most Southerners, I make biscuits. These aren’t just any biscuits. Since moving to live at an elevation of 7,000 feet, I’ve perfected the recipe for high-elevation biscuits, light and flaky with buttery layers that split open easily to receive jam, jelly, or honey. I never thought I’d be making biscuits at over 10,000 feet on a trip to Owl Creek Pass near Ouray, Colorado, but that’s exactly what happened. I’m glad I listened to my inner voice when it said, “Pack that strawberry jam, girl. You’ll need it.”

Trail Fire Grill was created by Mark and his mountain biking buddy, Willy. When the pandemic hit, the southern California friends opted to stay outside, escaping to the hills to build trails. Eventually, they got hungry and began cooking gourmet meals in an abandoned granite quarry over a modified fire pit.

It wasn’t long before they refined their method and decided to share their engineering excellence with other outdoor enthusiast foodies. In a nutshell, Trail Fire Grill is a barbecue, a wok, an oven, and a firepit rolled into one eye-appealing, easy-to-carry, lightweight bundle. Fueled by propane, the heat is evenly spread by lava rocks. Grill burgers, steaks, chicken, and fish, or place the wok on the grill and stir-fry your favorite vegetables. Add a pizza stone, turn the wok over to use as a lid to create an oven, lower the heat, and bake cookies. It is USFS safe and beautifully constructed, weighing 20 pounds and measuring 13 inches tall with a 16-inch diameter.

On my field test, I also made bison steaks with grilled corn, pizza with a crunchy crust, and chocolate chip cookies. Suffice it to say, I ate well, and my taste buds and tummy were happy.

When not in use as a grill, Trail Fire Grill can be placed in campfire mode to create a toasty fire that will last for hours—especially useful in areas where burn bans are in effect or when firewood isn’t readily available.

Getting started with your Trail Fire Grill

Before you use your grill, watch a few videos at trailfiregrill.com, where Mark offers set-up and cooking instructions and recipes. The best practical advice I can give after field testing this grill is to keep the flame low when baking, about an inch above the lava rocks, then adjust as needed.

Starting with a smaller flame prevents burning and lets you to know where to begin next time. Be sure to treat the wok as a cast iron griddle or pan, washing only initially to remove the preservation packaging film. Grease it up well, and keep it that way as it will rust if left to the elements. Bring along an oven mitt to remove the stone as necessary.

For my backcountry experience, I created packages of foods ahead of time—even the homemade biscuits—and bundled them for easy cooking. You’ll be able to experiment with a wide range of foods and enjoy the edible delights that this grill is capable of cooking.

Southern Slow-Cooked Pork Chops

Follow package directions to make grits, either in the provided wok or on a pan placed on the barbecue grill. Add cheddar cheese to taste and let sit.

Use the wok to slow cook thick-cut pork chops at a low flame, about an inch over the lava rocks. Once they have reached an internal cooking temperature of 170°, remove and place them on the bed of cheese grits. Top with red pepper jelly.

High-elevation Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/8 cup of baking powder

6 tablespoons lard (Crisco)

1/2 pound of butter, grated

2 cups buttermilk

In a mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add the lard and grated butter, and mix well. Add the buttermilk; mix on high just until blended. Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a square. Roll with a rolling pin until 1/2-inch thick. Fold the dough over and roll again. Repeat another two times. This will provide flaky layers. Cut into desired rounds. If at home, place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes (*you’ll need to eye this based on your elevation) at 365 degrees. If baking on Trail Fire Grill, heat the pizza stone at low heat, then place the biscuits on it. Once brown, turn the biscuits over, then onto the sides. For Trail Fire Grill, use a 2-inch diameter biscuit or smaller. When browned on all sides, the biscuits are done and cooked into the middle.

$349 | trailfiregrill.com

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Marianne Todd has been a professional photojournalist and writer since 1987. Her career began in newspapers and rapidly spread into national news magazines. Her work has been featured on the pages of Time, Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal, where she was nominated for Photographer of the Year International. Todd became a publisher in 2009, creating titles reflecting the music, arts, and tourism industries of the South (she still sports the accent), and her work as the official photographer for Governor Haley Barbour led her to photograph everything from Hurricane Katrina to presidential visits. Since moving to New Mexico four years ago, she has left hard news coverage to travel on her trusty BMW F 750 GS, journeying the roads of America and beyond.